I’m not sure if it’s my age, the fact that I'm a mom now, or something else entirely, but I’ve found myself stewing over and really considering the concept of feminism in recent months. When I was younger, I thought "feminist" was a term reserved for Women’s Studies majors who didn’t shave their legs, hated make-up and men, and loved Birkenstocks. Mostly, I was confusing feminism with bad Seattle stereotypes from the nineties, but the point remains: I had a lot to learn about what feminism is.
Now that I’m older and by most definitions an adult, I realize the basic truth about feminism that anyone can figure out if they look even one degree deeper than total ignorance: Feminism is less about anger and bra-burning, and more about the subtle realities of how gender affects our everyday lives and a fundamental belief in equality for people of all gender identities.
Sometimes I love being a woman...and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m empowered by my gender, and sometimes I’m weighed down by the reality of how so many things are still stacked against the advancement of women. My views depend on the day, what I’m doing, what I’m reading, what I’m seeing happening around me, and what I’m hearing my friends, family and other smart people saying. Sometimes I'm comfortable with the term feminist, and sometimes it feels tough to swallow. Perhaps this makes me indecisive, but I’d rather be open about the fact that I’m still working this out than try to pretend otherwise.
That said, I thought I’d offer up some ways that becoming a mom has led me to revisit my own definition of feminism, and how feminism applies to parenting.
You Want to Set More of An Example Than Ever Before
In some ways, parenting is a bit like putting oneself under a microscope. My partner and I have invited this little person into our lives and our home and are basically exposing him to (almost) everything we do. And because I believe that actions speak more than words, and I really want him to see what women are capable of, I know that I’ve got to actually show my kid what I’m capable of. If my son grows up thinking nothing of the fact that his mom works just as hard as his dad and that she reaches just as many of her goals as his dad, then I will know we’ve done at least one thing right.
Your Don’t Want Your Child To See Limitations Placed On Half The World’s Population
I asked my husband if he ever felt limited by his gender and he jokingly replied, “Well, I can’t make as many babies in my tummy as I’d like.” (Since we had a kid, "tummy" is a popular word in our house.) And while I like that he went there with his response, the real topic at hand is as layered as our child when we go for walks in the winter. Progress has been made, no doubt, but we have a long way to go until women’s rights are balanced with men’s (both in written laws and in cultural norms), and I don’t want my son to grow up thinking it’s OK to accept different results, or to put different expectations, on the women in his life.
You Want To Be Able To Do Whatever You Want, For Yourself AND Your Family
Is that too much to ask? Basically, I want options. I want to be able to decide what’s best for me, my partner, our baby, and any other future people and pets we may or may not add to our brood. I don’t want to be strapped by jobs with low wages or weak maternity policies, or glass ceilings.
You Don’t Want Your Son To Grow Up With a Sense Of Privilege Or Entitlement Because Of His Gender
To take it one step further, I don’t want my son to grow up feeling any differently about his place in the world because there are cultures that treat women differently. I also don’t want him to think he can do more, or be more, than any woman he meets in his lifetime simply because of his gender.
You're Careful With How You Divide Household Duties
I’m lucky that I have found myself an amazing partner who does (more than) his fair share around the house. Sure, we’ve both adopted some regular chores that fit traditional gender norms (he takes out the trash; I’m typically in charge of laundry) but he also does most of the cooking, and I will squish spiders I find (as long as they’re not bigger than, like, a nickel). We are part contemporary, part traditional, but the glory of it is that it is a choice for our family. That’s the whole point.
You Become More Invested In Issues Like Maternity Leave, The Wage Gap, And Workplace Equality
Before my first pregnancy, I had the luxury of not needing to worry about maternity leave. I had a vague idea that the current options regarding maternity leave for women in the U.S. weren’t awesome, and that other countries had set-ups that were far more appealing, but I really didn’t give it much thought. That is, until I found myself sitting across from the HR rep at my old job, slowly nodding as it sank in how my husband and I would both be sharing 12 weeks of leave between us, since we worked for the same employer. Ouch.
You're Wary Of Labels
Perhaps it's the English major in me, but words and their definitions and (most importantly) their implications, are things that really weigh on me. I still don't think we've yet reached a place where "feminist" means exactly what I feel. I can't quite put my finger on why that is, but I'm constantly chewing on the term, like gum that lost its flavor an hour ago (or, in this case, years ago). But I also get that, for the very reason that I'm sensitive to the label, someone else might be fully ready to embrace it, and the awesome thing is that we can pick on choose how to define ourselves and our feelings.
You're Quicker To State What You Do And Don't Like
Perhaps this has to do with how limited time and energy becomes after we become parents, but I see less reason to beat around the bush now. Short of the responsibilities we're all saddled with (looking at you, diapers and dishes), I'm much pickier with what I do with my free time, and how I do it. On a regular basis, I find myself considering how precious my spare time is, and how awesome it is to be able to use it on things like the Harry Potter Wiki, Justin Bieber GIFs, and laying on the floor thinking about french fries.
You're In Awe Of What Previous Generations Of Women Experienced
Does anyone else think about this every time you load a washing machine (I mean, washboards used to the the norm)? Or when you run the dishwasher ? Or when you get up and go to a job that you chose, after earning an education in a field you selected? Or when you're simply reminded of the fact the girdles exist?
You Reconsider What It Means to Be #Blessed And Have #FirstWorldProblems
The things I'm grateful for (viral videos of panda bears, infinity scarves, the right to vote...) are probably very different than the things women who lived in other eras, or those who currently live in other areas of the world, are thankful for and that alone is worth recognizing.
You Pay More Attention To The Messages In Kids' Books, Songs, And Movies
Looking at you, vintage Disney movies.
You Develop A New Appreciation For Your Own Mother's Sacrifices And Efforts
Shout-out to my own mom, who is a few blocks away at the park with my son at this very moment. Having a small child of my own, and seeing her with him, sheds some light on what she did for me in my early years, and how she continues to support me today in new ways.